Sleep Disorders Treatment Stress Relief

Stress and sleep disorders can form a vicious cycle of symptoms. Stress can cause sleep problems, but sleep disturbances also increase stress levels. According to the Better Sleep Council (2009), 65 percent of Americans lose sleep due to stress, and 16 percent suffer from stress-induced insomnia.

Fortunately, sleep often improves with stress relief. Sleep also helps combat stress, so treating one problem often relieves the other. Following stress management tips can treat both anxiety and stress.

Biological Connections Between Stress and Sleep

Stress is necessary for human survival. When the brain perceives a threat, stress hormones are released that prepare the body to fight or flee from danger. Stress responses worked well for much of human existence, when people were frequently in danger, whether from animals, other humans or the environment.

In emergencies, the stress response remains a potential lifesaver. But today, a person is more likely to confront an irate employer than an angry bear. The stress response, however, remains the same for both circumstances. The continuous stream of information, events and activities associated with modern life results in an almost constant stress response.

Stress hormones, such as cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone, disrupt sleep. In turn, even a single night of disrupted sleep leaves people irritable, less productive and easier to anger, all of which generate further stress.

Anxiety and Sleep

Anxiety and sleep problems go hand-in-hand. Stressful events can cause anxiety and sleep disturbances months after the event. People prone to anxiety are up to three times more likely to develop sleep disturbances than less anxious individuals, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2007).

Stress and Sleep Disorders

Stress and sleep disorders often aggravate each other’s symptoms. Many sleep disorders have insomnia as a symptom. Sleep deprivation increases stress responses, which in turn makes sleeping difficult. People may worry about their inability to sleep, releasing stress hormones that further interfere with restful sleep.

Stress Management Tips

Improving sleep is possible with stress relief. Sleep quality often improves when people begin practicing stress management.

Stress management doesn’t provide immediate stress relief. Sleep may not improve for several weeks after people begin following stress management tips. Over time, however, stress and sleep problems respond to stress reduction strategies.

Common stress management tips include:

  • Finding time for regular exercise
  • Learning new responses to stressful situations
  • Listening to quiet music
  • Practicing yoga or meditation
  • Taking a soothing bath.

Finding time for enjoyable activities and hobbies also provides stress relief. Sleep may come easier if people put aside time before bedtime for stress-reducing activities.

If anxiety and sleep disorders seem overwhelming, or if stress and sleep problems fail to improve after following stress management tips, discuss the problem with a doctor or therapist. Not all sleep problems stem from stress alone. Depression, anxiety disorders and serious medical conditions can all contribute to sleep difficulty. Always talk to a medical professional about sleep problems to get a proper diagnosis.

Resources

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2007). Journal SLEEP: Anxiety linked to sleep disturbances. Retrieved October 22, 2010, from http://www.aasmnet.org/Articles.aspx?id=625.

Better Sleep Council. (2009). Stress and sleep in America. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from http://www.bettersleep.org/onbettersleep/stress_sleep.asp.

Creagan, E. (2009). Don’t overlook sleep as a stress buster. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-and-sleep/MY00606.

Franklin Institute Online. (2004). Renew – sleep and stress. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/sleep.html.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Stress management. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435.